Sweden agrees to exchange fingerprints with the US

A new government decision paves the way for Swedish police to strike a deal with their American counterparts to get permission to use each other's fingerprint databases to look for suspects.

Sweden agrees to exchange fingerprints with the US
There are around 165,000 fingerprints in Sweden's database, compared to the US' 100 million. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

Swedish police have previously had to send a request to the US in order to search for fingerprints in the FBI's database, a process which usually takes almost two weeks, reports Swedish radio.

But after the summer police in the two countries will be able to browse each other's fingerprint registers for crimes for which there is a potential custodial sentence of more than a year in jail.

The background is that the US is allowing visa-free travel for Swedes, among other nationalities, and in exchange has requested to get access to and share police information between countries. Sweden and the US agreed in principle in 2011 to share fingerprint information, but critics have expressed concern over privacy and it has been the topic of two separate government inquiries in Sweden.

Only the Left Party voted against the decision in parliament.

“This means that the US can access Sweden's entire fingerprint register for crimes that have a fairly short sentence in Sweden,” the party's spokesperson on legal issues, Linda Snecker, told Swedish public radio.

But Interior Minister Anders Ygeman argued the agreement would benefit both countries.

“I believe this is mutually beneficial because both Sweden and the US will be safer by us being able to find out who has been at a crime scene,” he told the radio.

Asked why he thought it had taken so long to make the decision, he said: “I think it's to do with biometric information being perceived as sensitive and it is important that there are good rules regulating the exchange of biometric information and that there is far-reaching data protection and privacy protection.”

The decision means that the US federal police will get access to Sweden's 165,000 fingerprints of suspects and convicted criminals, and Sweden will get access to the FBI's register of around 100 million. Sweden has been able to search for fingerprints and DNA in a number of EU countries since 2013.


Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.